COVID-19: Optimizing Your Dealership’s Paid and Organic Search Strategies

As COVID-19 unfolds we understand the difficulties you’re facing and want to reiterate our partnership commitment to you in this time. As your partner, we wanted to quickly draw your attention to our organic search and paid media data, driven by consumer behavior. In addition, we have recommendations for actions you can take to keep your dealership competitive — regardless of if you have these services with us.

When comparing the nationwide search trends of March 2020 vs. February 2020 we’re seeing decreased search volume and total paid search traffic month over month with the exception of fixed ops related searches where there’s a slight uptick in activity.

Google Search Trends: March 2020 vs February 2020

While consumers are currently focused on understanding and adapting to their new norms of shelter at home and social distancing, it’s not unexpected that we’re seeing these declines in search activity. It’s worth noting that while higher funnel “what-should-I-buy” type vehicle searches are down compared to the previous period, it’s not too far off. The reality is that even during this time of uncertainty, there are still millions of people out there who have an immediate need to purchase a new vehicle or to service their current one.



While overall search patterns are down, you still want to be present for those in need so you can influence the car shopper’s decision when they’re ready to purchase or service their vehicle.


Update Your Ad Copy

Google Ad For Buy a Car OnlineStay current with your OEM’s national messaging as each begins to rollout special incentives geared toward generating sales during this period. As of this writing, we’ve already seen manufacturers release 0% Financing For 84 months and No Payments For 90 Days type incentives. You’ll want to piggyback on that same messaging in your own paid media.

We also feel that it’s important in your brand messaging to transparently talk about the safety measures being taken by your dealership to ensure a healthy environment, in addition to how you have adapted your business practices to meet the demands of shoppers who are told to stay at home.

Be sure to highlight your digital retailing solution for easy shopping, and your convenient home delivery capabilities for both sales and service in all of your digital advertising.


Focus on Fixed Ops

When it comes to paid advertising, many dealers don’t focus much on their Fixed Ops departments. With the decrease in sales related search activity, you can shift a portion of your budget to add visibility via search for your service department.

Google Ad for Oil Change Open Near Me NowEven with shelter in place orders being enacted across multiple states, most are recognizing car dealership service departments as essential businesses that can stay open to provide local consumers with needed vehicle maintenance, critical repairs or OEM required warranty work.

If you haven’t been running service campaigns within Google Ads and Microsoft Ads, or have only dedicated a small portion of your budget to covering related keywords, now’s the time to amp up your efforts to position your dealership as a trusted repair shop to take care of all of your vehicle service needs.

We also recommend that you update your messaging across all mediums to include your dealership’s up-to-date methods for providing customers with a safe experience that aligns with CDC recommendations for social distancing, such as:

  • Drive-thru express lane oil change service
  • At home vehicle pickup and return delivery
  • Appointment only service
  • Basic parts delivery


Lean Into Social Advertising

People turn to social media during times of uncertainty for news, distraction and to socialize. In just the short period of time that we’ve been dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic, 53% of people are using Facebook more often and 32% of people are using Instagram more often. This spike in time is actually eclipsing Facebook’s annual traffic spike between Christmas and New Year’s.

With the increased usage of Facebook and the lower volume of sales related Google searches, you may have the budget flexibility to move a portion of your search funds over to Facebook to boost ad viewership.

Again, when you’re meeting folks in their newsfeed, we recommend you focus your messaging around the convenience of shopping for a vehicle using your digital retailing tool and your home delivery service to make the experience free from stress and anxiety.


Huge Opportunity with OTT

According to Nielsen, streaming activity is expected to increase by 60% during the COVID-19 crisis. With Fuel In-Market Video you can become top of mind for your local audience that may not be thinking about buying or servicing their vehicle during this time.

Capitalize on Display

Car shoppers are still doing research from home on – while shoppers may not be in your store, you can be there right by their side by moving available search budget over to Cars Display. Remember, when you run Cars Display ads, you’re targeting an audience that is actively in the car shopping process in your area, 100% of the time.



The Dealer Inspire SEO team is proactively working to collect search trends and craft strategies designed to connect dealers directly to their communities during this time of need, highlight remaining car-buying options, offer consumers helpful service-related tips to take advantage of during this period of social distancing, and create sales-oriented content that will propel them forward when search activity returns to normal.

The most important thing to remember about your SEO is that while search traffic is down, your dealership’s rankings will hold, meaning that as consumer patterns stabilize, traffic will return.


Leverage Google My Business

Google Post - At Home Test DriveThe past couple of years Google has added a bunch of features to GMB that you can take advantage of to stay connected to your community. Be sure to keep your hours of operation updated within GMB for both your sales and service pages. We also recommend taking advantage of the Posts feature to proactively push information to consumers about the current operating state of your sales and service departments.

The Q & A section found on your GMB page may see increased activity as shoppers are looking for answers regarding the state of your business.

#ProTip: Instead of waiting for a customer to ask a question, provide your own set of frequently asked questions along with the answer in the Q&A section.

To answer questions as quickly as possible, download the Google My Business app for iOS or Android and you’ll get a push notification on your device alerting you anytime a new question is asked along with the capability to respond right from the app.


Customize Your COVID-19 Response Page

Having a dedicated page on your website to go over the initiatives you put in place at your dealership since COVID-19 has unfolded in your area is great for awareness and can become a key asset in all of your marketing activities. We have made a generic COVID-19 response page available to all our clients, but we encourage you to work with your content partner to customize and tailor this to your unique market.


Create Digital Retailing Content

Car Shop From Home with Digital Retailing

Now is the time to leverage your digital retailing solution whether it’s Online Shopper or something else. Create an educational landing page that helps consumers understand exactly how your online car buying technology and vehicle delivery capabilities will help them purchase a car from your dealership in a healthy, safe way.


Update Your VRPs

In addition to dedicated digital retailing landing pages, you can also add related links and content directly to your VRPs highlighting the available online car buying and home delivery options. Do so will reassure buyers and encourage them to pursue closing the deal.


Leverage Technical Page Elements

Use title tags and meta descriptions to your advantage! Since this is the first thing a consumer sees in the SERP, consider editing your core page’s title tags and meta descriptions to pass key information and encouraging messaging to consumers.

For example, if your Service Center is offering pick up/drop off services, you can use the Yoast plugin on the Service page to change the title tag to something like “Free Service Center Vehicle Pick Up & Drop Off Available | City-Area Brand Service Center”


Create Content Leveraging OEM Offers

As we mentioned above, brands are already beginning to increase incentives to car buyers, be sure to create custom content that combines your USPs with the offer details.

Dealer Inspire SEO Specialists are working with our OEM teams to stay informed of offers as they’re announced and will be working to incorporate content quickly into our client’s strategy plans.



As competitors drop out, now is the time to push your advantage and build a funnel that will propel your sales forward when business resumes! The content that we create during this time will drive organic traffic and leads as search behavior normalizes. Maintaining SEO content creation through this period is critical for long-term dealership success.

Our team is monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on the automotive space, and we will continue to provide you updates as the situation changes. If there are any additional questions or concerns you may have, please don’t hesitate to reach out, we’re here to help you every step of the way through these challenging times.

Contact Us

Cara Garvey
Cara brings in-depth technical digital advertising knowledge to her team and our dealer partners, innovating every day with new paid search strategies and FUEL℠ features. Cara began at DI as a Paid Search Specialist and quickly grew into a leader, managing the entire team and all digital advertising efforts for our dealer partners. Outside of work, she loves dogs and spending time with her husband Mark. She combines those passions by taking him to a dog park on Saturday mornings, even though they don't have a dog, which has caused several awkward interactions when people ask "which is yours?"
Mary-Grace Wilson
Mary-Grace started in the automotive advertising space almost ten years ago, and quickly developed a passion for the incredible value that organic optimization can bring to businesses. Today, she leads a team of more than 70 SEO experts across the website production and Connected Marketing channels at Dealer Inspire, who execute holistic, tailored strategies that put dealers in front of buyers online.

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